Smith: Villa can take nothing for granted v United – except a De Gea gaffe, obviously

Villa host United on Thursday, and boss Dean Smith says they'll have to earn everything they get - apart from the inevitable goalkeeping error, of course

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Ahead of the visit of in-form Manchester United, Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has warned his players that they’ll need to graft to get anything out of Thursday night’s fixture – with the exception of at least one goal, which David De Gea will probably throw in at some point during the 90 minutes.

“We’ve seen the step up in class from the Championship this season,” Smith said. “There are mistakes you can make at a lower level that you just can’t afford in the Premier League – unless you’re up against a goalkeeper who can’t stop a shot for jam, that is. You’ll probably get away with one then, at least.”

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He went on to explain how the goalkeeper’s recent woes have influenced preparation for the game. “I’ve been telling the lads all week, we can’t take anything for granted against a team in the form United are in – except their goalkeeper embarrassing himself at least once at some point.”

“I mean, did you see him on Saturday? I know one of our’s carried one into the net recently, but not covering the post like that is unforgivable. And then there’s Harry Maguire, who turns slower than milk” he added, in an unusually candid assessment of their next opponents.

“I know they call him Slabhead, but he looked like Slabarse the way Stanislas ‘megged him.”

The Red Devils’ number one and their £70m centre half have made a series of high-profile mistakes since the return of top-flight football, and they’ve been noted by the Villans’ gaffer, who has encouraged his forwards to shoot on sight.

Chelsea’s Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi (L) vies with Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire during the English League Cup fourth round football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on October 30, 2019. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’ve told our strikers to just get the ball on target this week,” he said. “With this keeper playing like Massimo Taibi at the moment, and the centre-half making Phil Jones look like a reasonable option, the more tickets you buy the more chances you have to win. It’s not like taking their time is making much difference anyway.”

When asked about United’s recent improvement in attack, the former Brentford boss was wary of their youthful strike force. “In Rashford and Martial they already had two exciting forwards, but Greenwood has come in and looks even better than both. And Fernandes even making Matic and Pogba look useful again.”

“We’ll probably need De Gea and Maguire to knock in a few for us, and maybe Wiliam Prunier to make a return and all. Then we might have a chance.”

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